Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas 2014... and a look back at the best Christmas surprise

Hello!  Hello!  Merry Christmas, everyone!  I hope you all are enjoying your holiday merry-making!

We're doing well, not much excitement going on, keeping things steady (as far as we are able).  I don't usually have much hustle and bustle going on right before Christmas, and this year is no different, so I thought I'd take a few minutes to wish you well and give you a short tour around the house.

I don't do much decorating so the tour won't last long!  I really admire people who have a flair for it, like my Aunt Betty.  You should visit her blog.  She has a talent for decorating that just makes me say "Wow!" sometimes.  And there is my friend, Cheryl.  Her farmhouse style is warm and cozy, and her home is full of family and faith. 

This year we decided to weed out some of our less-than-treasured Christmas baubles.  We make the same decision every year, but this year we finally did it.  We sent a few things to our daughter (who will not be able to come home for the holidays  FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER!!) and set aside a few things that we knew our son might like to have.  Other things we either pitched out or put in a box for donation.

In the kitchen
This is the first time I've ever had a Christmas tree in the kitchen.  When our children were little they each had a tree of their own to decorate in their rooms.  They didn't take them with them when they moved from home, neither of them wanted them, so I thought "Why not?!?"

I call these little birds my Whimsies. They kinda make me grin.

That quizzical expression never leaves their face...

My house smelled so festive when I was making these clove-studded cinnamon stars.

My husband brought in a couple bags-full of pinecones last year.  I made a swag with some and piled the rest in an old wooden bowl.  I saved them for this year so that I wouldn't have to deal with the critters that come with bringing nature indoors.  I was knocking down spider webs in my kitchen for *days* last year.  And the pine sap?  I had no idea that I would react like I did.  Even this year it affected me and I barely touched them!  I still like them, though.


In the dining room

The tree that convinced my husband that artificial didn't have to look fake...  This tree is decorated in gold and maroon.  There is no real sentimental attachment to anything here so I'd be happy to part with it, save for one thing.  The garland.  The fabric isn't special.  It is just strips cut from curtains I bought for a dollar at a thrift store.  The sentimental thing is that my Mom and I made it together the first Christmas after my Dad passed away.  So until I find a different use for it, the tree stays!

A candle holder that my husband made from a cedar tree that fell when Hurricane Isabel hit us pretty hard.  One side is for tapers, the other holds votives.  The greenery is artificial but it is very convincing!

In the living room
This is my husband's tree.  It is decorated with (mostly) old-fashioned  Santas.  This half of the "we" isn't overly fond of the whole Santa thing, but I am quite fond of my husband, so it is as he likes it. 
There are other things on this tree besides the fat man, like some cute glass mittens and brass jinglebells from the dollar store, a lacy star from an aunt who thought of us on her travels, and these precious 2 peas in a pod that we got the year our daughter-in-law expecting twins.

Instead of a traditional topper, I found a wooden sleigh at a craft store that my husband painted.  He added a post to the bottom to help keep it upright. 

A Christmas ball wreath.  I made 3 of them one year after I hit the 90% off sale at Michael's. 

Christmas stockings that my Mom made for us close to 20 years ago...

And the ones we've added as our family grows... (I wish I could say that I made them but I didn't so I won't)

One last thing
You know how most children have baby dolls or teddy bears as their special cuddle toys?  Well, I had a Santa (I know, I know!  I don't like Santa now.  I'm an enigma.  What can I say?)  His name was Junior.  I have no idea where I got him or how he got his name.  Somewhere along the way, I lost track of Junior, but told my husband and children about him several times over the years.  Junior had a plastic face with a red velveteen-ish plush body and white trim around his hood.
One year a few months before Christmas I was telling my Mom about a Christmas display that I wanted to make using something that looked like a treasure chest but that everything I had seen was out of my price range.  She recalled having an old chest out in her garage and said that I could have it if it was what I needed.  So I found the trunk, opened it, and to my surprise, there was Junior!  He was moth-eaten and in tatters, but recognizable. 
I was beyond excited!!! 
I took Junior home with me to show my husband and children (oh, and the trunk, too, but it is way down on the list of importance at this point in the story).  They were somewhat taken aback at how ugly this beloved toy actually was.  And it wasn't that he was raggedy.  His face was sort of frightening.  But it was really nice to be able to show them something that I thought was lost forever.  My husband asked me what I wanted to do with him.  I said that we might as well just pitch him because he was literally crumbling.  And that was the last of Junior.
Or so I thought...
My husband could never be a poker player.  That man cannot NOT show on his face what he is feeling.  He has never been able to surprise me with a gift.  And I don't go snooping!  Really, I don't. 
So it was 2007.  My Mom was very sick.  She had been diagnosed with bladder cancer earlier in the year.  She was tired and weak.  I was not looking forward to concealing my sorrow so that she could maintain her hope. (I'd not make a very good poker player either.) 
It was Mom's custom to give us money instead of gifts.  She really didn't like shopping and she didn't want to give us something that we didn't like, so money was her answer.  Occasionally she would have some sort of token gift for us that she had picked up along the way.  Those were usually practical things.  Like a frying pan.  So I wasn't surprised to see a gift for me to unwrap.  I have no memory of what I gave her, or what anyone gave to anyone else.
When I unwrapped my gift, I turned into a sobbing mess.  My husband and children had snuck Junior back to Mom somehow, and she and her sister, Oneida, had made a new body for him! 
It was the best Christmas surprise! 

Look at that ugly, precious face!!!!

This is the first Christmas that my grandsons are really noticing things.  I thought they might be a bit afraid of Junior.  Somebody (ehem) obviously did some artwork on him before there was such a thing as washable markers.  But, no, my thoughts were completely unfounded.  To quote Liam, "Dat Junior HoHo?  I luff him!  I sit on his yap."  And for the rest of the evening he and Levi took turns hugging him. 

Full circle moments.  They never get old.


  1. I was honored by your words about my home...and then I was ambling along enjoying your home tour (including "The Whimseys"!)...and then you told your story and I was all mush and tears and sweetness and hugs and sad and happy and moved, so moved. Your gift is the sweetest thing ever, such a gift of love from your hubby and your mom and aunt. What a precious treasure, this last gift that she gave you. As you know, I'm not a fan of Santa, but Junior HoHo? I have suddenly made an exception.

    It makes me smile that the boys will love him too.

    I love you, friend!

    1. For some strange reason the link to your blog isn't highlighted like it should be, Cheryl. I'll have to check into that!

      Thank you for your comment! Yes, Junior's story always gets me right here (hand on heart) and it is a story I can hardly wait for my grandchildren to understand.

  2. Love this story! We never know what treasures will be restored or the gifts that our mothers give us that will hold the most meaning. I once read that all dolls, teddy bears, and the like represent "mother" to children. Merry Christmas!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I've never heard that theory, Vee. Junior certainly doesn't *look* like my Mom, but I do think of her whenever I look at him. haha! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  3. I read this the day it was posted and for some reason delayed commenting. I am glad I remembered now to come back to it. I think this is one of your best if not the best! I love that you opened up and shared this personal story. I just love it and it is presented so well!

  4. P.S. I loved seeing all your nice decorations, too.

    1. Thank you so much, Aunt Betty. It is one of the most special moments in my life, one that I hope to never forget or neglect to tell. It is precious to me.

  5. What a beautiful Christmas memory...and how wonderful that the twins are now enjoying Junior!

    1. Having lost my mother (and father) before I had grandchildren, I love when I can link them together with something like this. When did I get so sentimental?!? :-D Thanks, Allyson! I hope your family had a wonderful Christmas season!